This Advent, if you’re wondering what it looks like to adore Jesus, Luke is a good place to look. Repeatedly in his gospel, Luke shows us many different types of people adoring Jesus.
And in Luke 2:36-38, he introduces us to Anna, an elderly, widowed prophetess who gets to meet Jesus as a baby in the temple in Jerusalem.
36And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Anna, the Widowed Prophetess
In Luke 2, after the birth of Jesus, Luke tells us that Mary and Joseph take Jesus to Jerusalem to be presented in the temple (as required by God's Law in Exodus 13:2). It was during this visit that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are approached by Anna.
Luke tells us that Anna was from the Northern kingdom of Israel. Her presence in the story clues us in on one of the reasons Jesus came; to save his people Israel. We are also told that Anna was only married for seven years when her husband died and she had lived another eighty-four years after his death.* She never remarried. Instead, she devoted the rest of her life to fasting and prayer, living every day in the temple.
A Messiah for the Marginalized
Certainly Luke wants us to see in Anna an uncommon life of worship. All of Anna's adult life had been a constant pour of worship to God. But, I think Luke might want us to consider something else about this elderly widow; Where else would she go?
But then, this story takes a joyous turn. Anna meets the Messiah. "And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem." (Luke 2:38) At that moment, everything Anna had fasted and prayed for those eighty-four years was now in her presence.
In a time of year where we focus on Jesus coming to lowly shepherds and pagan wise men, don’t miss seeing Jesus coming to a poor, marginalized, one-hundred-year-old widow. Here, Luke shows us that God saw fit to do something for Anna that would all but wash away the burdens of widowhood. She got to see Jesus! She got to meet the Messiah!
That's who our Redeemer is. No other is like Him! Humble enough to come to widows, yet strong enough to save them. Meek enough to come as a baby, yet sovereign enough to come as a King.
Relationship With God is Founded on Relationship With Jesus
God wanted Anna to see Jesus. But why does Luke want us to see Anna? Why does the Spirit inspire Luke to include Anna in his narrative?
Anna is a faithful Jew, pursuing relationship with God through worship and service and keeping the law, which was absolutely right. Moreover, Anna is a devout Law-keeper who displays faith in the Law-Fulfiller.
Consider Jesus’ words to Thomas in John 14:6; “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
God designed salvation to come through his Son, Jesus. And Luke wants us to see this. True relationship with God doesn’t come through keeping the law, but through faith in Jesus, the Messiah, the One who redeems law breakers.
You see, in our sin, we have turned against the Father. All of us. So that means that we have turned away from our greatest source of joy and hope and peace. And there is no amount of good that you can do to restore what sin has broken.
We all stand in need of God’s forgiveness. Isaiah 53:6 says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” This means that appeasing God doesn’t lead to a relationship with Him. God doesn’t redeem you because you keep His law. We can’t keep his law. He doesn’t redeem you for doing random acts of kindness. He doesn’t redeem you because you go to church every now and again. Just like Anna, you and I are redeemed by turning to and treasure his Son, the Redeemer.
A Word to Non-Christians
If you are not a follower of Jesus, understand this; “We are not saved by doing things. We are saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus.”
This can be confusing because, when you look into the church, you see people doing things. Abd it’s easy to see church people doing “church things” and think, “Christians are holy people because they do holy things.” If that’s what you see when you see a Christian, please know that the Bible doesn’t teach us to put our hope for salvation in “doing things”. Anyone who is or ever will be forgiven of sin and restored to God is forgiven and restored by God’s grace through faith in Jesus, not by doing good things.
A Word to Christians
Just because Jesus has come does not mean that Anna should stop fasting and praying and worshiping God. Rather, now, she can worship God in fullness because her hope has come in Jesus.
We must never think, “I’m not saved by doing things, so I don’t have to do anything.” No, like Anna, we must say, “Jesus alone is my treasure, the foundation of my relationship with God. Therefore, he is the foundation of all my good works." He is the strength and the point of all our “doing things.” Righteous living is not the foundation of salvation. It is the fruit of salvation.
Adoring Jesus Through Worship and Witness
This is what Luke wants us to see about Anna; “She began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
For Anna, seeing led to telling. Worship led to witness. Her life did not end in quiet acceptance of the good news of Jesus. Instead, we are left with an image of Anna evangelizing everyone who had heard of the promise of redemption.
And so it should be for Christians, old and young. Jesus came to redeem us from our sin. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. This is why we adore Jesus. This is why we testify about Jesus. This is what we testify about Jesus.
This is what it means to adore Jesus. This Advent may your adoring Jesus mean trusting Him and treasuring Him. Seeing Him and speaking of Him. Worshiping and witnessing.
*Many scholars believe that Luke’s wording is best understood to mean that Anna had lived another eighty-four years after the death of her husband, which, if she was married around the age of sixteen, would mean she would have been over a hundred year old at the time of this account.